Why miscarriages of justice when there are so many things going wrong in the world? Why trust somebody who is convicted of a crime and has to spend years or decades in prison? Every one of them says they are innocent, don’t they? Majority of them lie.
However, the history has shown us that miscarriages of justice can and do occur, meaning that some of those offenders and liars are no different than any other law-abiding member of society. Well, with one exception – nobody believes them.
Where do you go when you hit the rock bottom? What do you do? I can only hope that neither I nor my readers will ever have to ask these questions. However, if you do, there is considerable amount of help available for different kinds of issues, such as domestic violence, death of a family member, drug abuse, living in extreme poverty and more. I am not saying that the help available for people with such issues is enough, but how much help is there for those who are convicted for a crime they did not commit? A lot less than there should be. A quick search in Charity Commission shows 429 results for a keyword “domestic violence”, 212 for “drug abuse” and only 1 result for keyword “miscarriage of justice” (Charity Commission, no year). Fair enough, there are campaign groups and university innocence projects that can help as well as there are less people who suffer from a miscarriage of justice, but they are still highly underrepresented while suffering from multiple problems, each of which could be classed as very serious.
You have probably heard and know some facts about the cases of Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4, but those are not the only cases we have in the UK. Think about Stephen Downing, who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, or Barry George, who was wrongly convicted and forced to leave the UK after he was released from prison 7 years later (Inside Justice, no year; Penrose, 2013). Another victim’s name is Sam Hallam, whose father committed suicide as a result of son’s conviction and battle for an appeal (Robins, 2015). Altogether 418 appeals have been successful following a CCRC referral and nearly 1000 more cases are either under review or awaiting review (CCRC, 2017).
In comparison, The National Registry of Exonerations in the United States has listed 2,021 miscarriages of justice with more than 17,610 years wrongly spent in prison since 1989 (The National Registry of Exonerations, no year). These include a case of Steven Avery from the Netflix’s series “Making a Murderer” as well as others, such as James Bain, who spent 35 years in prison for a crime he did not commit (York, 2016).
Underrepresentation, issues miscarriage of justice victims face in prison and after and time spent behind bars are the main reasons for my passion for miscarriages of justice. These people are some of the most broken people of the society and they receive very little help, if they are lucky.
CCRC (2017) CCRC case statistics, CCRC [Online]. Available at: http://www.ccrc.gov.uk/case-statistics/ (Accessed: 02 May 2017).
Charity Commission (No year) Charity search engine, Charity Commission [Online]. Available at: http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/showcharity/registerofcharities/RegisterHomePage.aspx (Accessed: 26 April 2017).
Inside Justice (No year) Historic cases, Inside Justice [Online]. Available at: http://www.insidejusticeuk.com/cases/historic-cases.php?page=4 (Accessed: 2 May 2017).
Penrose, J. (2013) Barry George First Interview for Five Years: I Hope I Live Long Enough to Find Out Who REALLY Murdered Jill Dando, The Mirror [Online]. Available at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/barry-george-first-interview-five-2051448 (Accessed: 27 October 2015).
Robins, J. (2015) Sam Hallam: The man who spent over seven years in jail for a murder he did not commit, Independent [Online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sam-hallam-the-man-who-spent-over-seven-years-in-jail-for-a-murder-he-did-not-commit-10238824.html (Accessed: 02 May 2017).
The National Registry of Exonerations (No year) The National Registry of Exonerations [Online]. Available at: https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx (Accessed: 2 May 2017).
York, C. (2016) ‘Making a Murderer’: 9 wrongful conviction cases more shocking than the Netflix series, The Huffington Post [Online]. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/04/making-a-murderer-steven-avery-wrongful-convictions-exonerations_n_9161694.html (Accessed: 2 May 2017).